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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

Lincoln Square Alderman Pushes Zoning Change To Force Developer To Reveal Mystery Grocer

The developer says it can't reveal its tenant because of a non-disclosure agreement. The lack of information has frustrated neighbors, who worry the grocer could be an Amazon Fresh.

The Fifth Third Bank building at the corner of Lawrence and Western avenues in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood on January 29, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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LINCOLN SQUARE — A Lincoln Square alderman is trying to change the zoning of an area in a bid to force a developer to reveal more information about a mystery project at a prime intersection.

Developer Hubbard Street Group is pursuing a two-story commercial development with a second-floor grocery store at the Fifth Third Bank building at North Western and West Lawrence avenues — but it hasn’t revealed much about its plans. Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) is now trying to downzone the area, hoping it would force the developer to be more transparent.

Vasquez introduced the measure Wednesday. It would cover 4800 N. Lincoln Ave. and 2412-2432 W. Lawrence Ave.

The developer has been able to bypass city oversight so far by invoking a non-disclosure agreement and breaking up construction into two phases, city officials previously said. 

The lack of information has frustrated neighbors, who worry Hubbard’s mystery tenant could be an Amazon Fresh or another grocer that would hurt nearby businesses. They’ve circulated a petition to demand a public hearing for the project.

The downzoning measure came about after Vasquez and neighboring Ald. Matt Martin (47th) received more than 1,000 responses to a survey regarding the intersection. 

“We just want to make sure that we’ve got all options on the table as we move forward in the hopes of finding something that the community can support,” Vasquez said.

A representative from Hubbard Street Group was not immediately available for comment.

John McLinden, managing partner at Hubbard Street Group, told Block Club last month his firm was finishing preliminary planning for the project before it “engaged with stakeholders.”

Hubbard plans to put a grocery store on the second floor of the development. The first floor would include a smaller footprint for Fifth Third Bank, parking and a small section for the grocer, according to city officials.

But the plan has concerned neighbors.

Vasquez and Martin solicited feedback about property at Lawrence and Western during a community meeting held last month. More than half of about 300 attendees said they were concerned a new grocery store could hurt local businesses. 

Neighbors said they’re also worried about the limited information the developer has released about its plans. 

Hubbard is claiming a non-disclosure agreement prevents it from sharing any information about the grocer, including what services it would offer, Vasquez said.

Vasquez said details have also been scarce because the project does not currently require a zoning change, which normally would prompt an aldermanic review.

Vasquez began sharing what he did know about the project with neighbors when he got wind of it in December. But if his downzoning measure is approved, it could require the developer to reveal more information about its plans to the public. 

The measure must go before the city’s zoning committee. Vasquez says no final decisions have been made about the property, but he will continue speaking to Martin, residents and local businesses in the months to come about the northwest corner of Lawrence and Western.

“However, to be as prepared as possible for potential community visions, including lower-impact uses, our office wanted to go ahead and get legislative language introduced so that we can move as quickly as possible once the community’s preferences have been fully established,” Vasquez said in a statement. 

A similar situation unfolded earlier this month in Martin’s ward further south.

In North Center, developer CRG unsuccessfully sought a zoning change to build a 45-foot-tall commercial building with a commercial grocer at another Fifth Third Bank property near a busy three-way intersection at Irving Park Road, and Lincoln and Damen avenues.

Unlike in Lincoln Square, the developers for the North Center property required a zoning change that necessitated review and backing from the alderman. CRG presented a version of the plan to Martin’s zoning advisory group but would not say which grocer is involved, also citing a non-disclosure agreement.

The lack of transparency and car-centric proposal were among the reasons Martin denied CRG’s request.

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